Operations management is the key to a successful business. It involves the planning, organization, and utilization of strategic issues in business administration. Operations managers understand inventory management and supply chain issues and focus on productivity. They are constantly evaluating industry trends pertaining to their company. Such managers must have excellent multitasking abilities and an eye for detail.
A graduate degree in operations management helps develop a broad executive leadership skill set that is transferable to various areas of business. These executives work in private and public companies as well as government agencies and non-profit organizations.
While a master’s degree in operations management is not the highest-level degree available, earning the next-level degree of doctorate pertains primarily to those seeking to work in academia or higher levels of government.
What is a Master’s Degree in Operations Management?
This degree is graduate-level and first earning a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite before you can join a operations management master’s degree program. This degree confirms a “mastery” of a specific field of study.
Most master’s degrees in operations management require 40 credit hours. A few schools may offer these degrees with fewer credit hours, and some may require more than 40; it depends upon the institution. Those credit hours generally translate to between 12 and 18 courses.
A master’s degree also generally requires either the completion of a thesis or a specific project. Depending on the college program, and especially in business, this capstone project usually involves solving a real-world problem for management operations. The project generally entails one semester of the master’s program.
How long it takes to earn a master’s degree depends on whether the student pursues their education on a full-time or part-time basis. Those attending school full-time should receive their degree within two years. A part-time student might earn their degree within three to four years. A few schools also offer a one-year accelerated master’s degree, but it will be very difficult to finish one of these programs while maintaining a full work schedule.
Where Do You Earn an Operations Management Masters?
Master’s degrees in operations management are available from universities, either public or private. Community colleges do not offer these degrees. However, it’s possible to start your educational journey in operations management at a community college, transfer to a four-year school, and after graduation pursue a master’s degree.
You may earn an online master’s degree in operations management from online programs available in some graduate schools or enter a hybrid program with some in-class attendance requirements. Some schools also offer dual bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, which the student can complete within five years.
Because many master’s degree students are working full-time, in-person courses are often held in the evenings or on weekends. With online programs, students can often attend classes at the time most convenient for them.
Online Vs. Traditional Education in Operations Management
Applicants for a master’s degree in operations management must decide whether they want to pursue an online degree or a traditional on-campus or in-person degree. Both have their pros and cons. Ultimately, the decision comes down to the candidate’s needs.
In the past, an in-person degree was more respected. With the growth of online learning and more well-known schools offering distance learning, the quality of the education and subsequent respect for the degree has risen. Most employers realize that online education is the wave of the future and reflects how we now live.
What students must find out when making this decision is whether the faculty at traditional school offering the online option is the same. Of course, not all degrees lend themselves to 100% online coursework. That is not the case with a master’s degree in operations management, which is well-suited to an online learning environment.
Those pursuing an operations management career path and working full-time or with family responsibilities may prefer the convenience of online learning. These programs make it so that the need to commute or commit to attending class on particular days and times are no longer an issue. However, online learning does not offer the guidance and networking opportunities of traditional study.
An online education is often less expensive than one pursued in-person. Even if the tuition costs do not vary, the student does save on commuting and other expenses. Earning an in-person degree also depends on proximity to the educational institution. With an online degree, you can attend school literally anywhere on the planet.
What Are the Prerequisites for a Master’s Degree?
Besides earning a bachelor’s degree, prerequisites for a master’s degree include:
- Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0
- Current resume
- Writing sample
- Professional and academic references
- Admission interview
Note that while many schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), that is not true of all institutions. Also, if the candidate did not earn a bachelor’s degree in the field in which they are applying for a master’s degree, they will likely have to complete certain required undergraduate courses. Depending on the school and course of study, life experience in the workplace may substitute for formal coursework.
The prerequisites for an MBA may not differ significantly from those required for a master’s degree specifically geared for operations management. To enter a doctoral degree program, successful completion of a master’s degree is usually required.
Why Earn a Master’s Degree?
A master’s degree prepares you for much higher-level positions than you might obtain with only a bachelor’s degree. Operations management is a top executive field. With only a bachelor’s degree, a professional will be at a serious disadvantage for moving into upper-echelon management. The additional time, effort, and money put into a master’s degree – and many companies offer tuition reimbursement options – are well worth it in terms of career outcomes.
In operations management, there is also the fact that a master’s degree is a prerequisite for many jobs. That is not the case in some other types of business administration.
Pursuing a doctorate degree in operations management is quite demanding. While candidates can earn a master’s degree within two years or less, it can take four years or more to earn a doctorate after receiving a master’s. For most executives, even at the highest level, it’s not necessary to earn a doctorate in order to obtain career objectives. However, those interested in moving into academics may need the extra degree.
Why a Degree in Operations Management?
No matter the industry, operations management is essential. A degree in operations management provides flexibility and the ability to cross or transfer between industries. That is one of the reasons this is a degree of choice for many business majors, as it prepares them for executive-level careers.
Operations management is the core of all company strategies since the ability to establish effective production and distribution systems is the key to delivering value. To put it bluntly, good operations management means the system works as it is designed. Think of good operations management as a well-oiled machine. It affects every aspect of a business, and the quality of operations management makes the difference between failure and success.
While a bachelor’s degree is required for virtually all operations management positions, a master’s degree is necessary for promotion in many cases. Many candidates for master’s degrees in operations management already work in the field. While a bachelor’s degree can start off a career, a master’s degree will provide much more opportunity for advancement.
What’s Involved in a Master’s Degree?
The degree requirements include core and elective courses. These courses reflect the key concepts of operations management.
- Customer Relationship Management
- Ethics and Leadership
- Financial Management
- Healthcare Management
- Human Resources Strategies
- Inventory Management Strategies
- Leadership Principles
- Management Science
- Marketing Management
- Operation Improvement
- Operations Management
- Organizational Behavior
- Quality Control Systems
- Process Analysis
- Supply Chain Management
Concentration options for a master’s degree in operations management may include:
- Architectural Management
- Construction Project Management
- Demand Management
- Engineering Management
- Healthcare Management
- Industrial Project Management
- IT Project Management
- Operations Management
- Project Management
- Public and Non-Profit Management
- Risk Analytics
- Service Management
- Supply Chain Management
What to Consider When Choosing a Master’s Program in Operations Management
When it comes to choosing a master’s program in operations management, accreditation is imperative. Students attending unaccredited schools are ineligible for federal and state financial aid. Look for a graduate school recognized and accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) before applying.
The best known regional accreditation bodies in the U.S. consist of:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Commission on Higher Education
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission
When seeking a master’s degree in operations management, seek out schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This accreditation is widely respected and earned by only about 5% of business schools.
Further Operations Management Education
Some prospective students may want to pursue a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus in operations management rather than a master’s in operations management per se. This may prove a good choice for those who want the additional flexibility of an MBA. An MBA with this concentration is a good choice for those planning to work as an entrepreneur or consultant, or pursue a general management career. Because the candidate is well-versed in operations management, they may also work in human resources, finance, or marketing as these fields interface with operations management.
Doctorate or PhD
Earning a doctorate or PhD in operations management best suits those seeking an academic career in business administration or engineering. It’s possible to complete a PhD within four years, although many students take longer than that.
Students may enter doctoral programs from different fields, including:
- Computer Science
- Operations Research
While earning a PhD advances an academic career, it can also impact those looking to become a top executive in their field. Those with doctorates in operations management may work as management consultants or in positions analyzing and influencing government policies. The title of “Dr.” gives all candidates more credibility when seeking employment.
Operations Management Certification Options
Certifications are a significant factor in the success of an operations management career. Many certifications are available online exclusively. Others are offered on-site at workplaces. The amount of time required for certification coursework varies but 32 to 40 hours is a typical range.
Certifications usually require maintenance by submission of annual professional development points. Many of these points are earned while on the job and submission confirms the applicant is currently in good standing. If the certification expires, reinstatement depends on the particular certification.
Operations and performance management professional (OPMP) certification was developed in conjunction with the Federal Services Administration and APPA. Those achieving this certification are considered competent to manage and maintain facility operations and meet building goals. This prestigious designation helps employers recruit the best people in the field.
- Certification in Production and Inventory Management: The CPIM is considered the “gold standard” in terms of professional competence. Earning this certification can greatly increase compensation.
- Certification in Integrated Resource Management: CIRM focuses on all aspects of an organization, ranging from information technology to capital to human resources. The goal is integration and maximization of management skills.
- Six Sigma certification: Based on a system similar to that of the ranks of karate, Six Sigma is a methodology based on business tools, statistics, and quality control knowledge. Such certification is sought by those working at the highest levels of the global business world as it denotes first-rate professional skills development.
Potential Careers for Operations Management Graduates
An operations management master’s degree offers a wide variety of careers in every major aspect of business.
Here are some examples:
Business Operations Manager:
This manager is responsible for the company’s productivity and efficiency across all departments. Budgeting, inventory and supply chain supervision, staffing requirements, and overall big picture analysis is within their purview.
This role is a core component in supply chain management. The materials manager determines inventory levels, plans all materials requirements, and communicates needs through the entirety of the supply chain. The goal is to always have the proper inventory levels and continued sources of materials.
Operations Research Analyst:
By using mathematical and analytical formulas, these analysts work to provide solutions for company problems. Their work centers on improving day-to-day operations as well as a long-term focus on cost effectiveness, efficiency, and product distribution.
This person plans production schedules and ensures deadlines are met. They make sure all goods meet quality standards while being produced in the most cost-effective manner. This job requires at least a bachelor’s degree. An advanced degree can assist the planner in moving on to the managerial level.
It is the project manager’s job to plan and organize a firm’s specific projects. It’s their responsibility to ensure the project is completed on time and within budget. The process involves initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and the closing of the project.
This job entails the procurement of goods and services for an organization, either for resale, manufacturing purposes, or the entity’s own use. The purchasing manager works with suppliers and those in the supply chain. The role includes determining which supplier to use, based not only on cost but on sustainability and other critical factors.
Supply Chain Manager:
This position involves overseeing a company’s supply chain and logistics strategy. They ensure the supply chain operates at peak efficiency while minimizing costs. They procure the raw materials needed by the company and establish relationships with partners and suppliers.
While it is obvious that a person earning a master’s degree in operations management will start out with a higher salary than someone with a bachelor’s or associate degree, it’s also true that, as they gain experience, they will continue to rise and increase their income.
Keep in mind salary expectations depend on the size and scope of the business.
Here are the average annual salaries for those with a master’s degree in operations or supply chain management as of January 2021:
- Business Intelligence Developer - $97,000
- Executive Manager - $100,000
- Information Systems Manager - $97,000
- Materials Planner - $74,000
- Operations Research Analyst - $85,000
- Operations Manager - $77,000
- Project Manager - $83,000
- Supply Chain/Logistics Manager - $84,000
According to BLS, the overall field of operations management should grow by about 6% in the decade between 2019 and 2029. That is about 18% higher than the average job. However, since the field is so varied, much depends on the type of business.
For example, architectural and engineering management jobs are expected to grow by 3% in the same period, which is the average growth rate for all occupations. Construction management jobs are expected to rise by 8%, which is considered much faster than average. Positions expected to expand even more include computer and information systems managers. These jobs should grow by 10%.
The need for industrial production managers is expected to grow by just 1%, which is slower than average. This shows that the outlook is quite positive for those earning a master’s degree in operations management in the near future.
- Payscale.com Operations Management
- MBA Operations Management Concentration - Tepper School of Business - Carnegie Mellon University (cmu.edu)
- Masters in Operations Management Online | Kettering University
- Global Business Education Network | AACSB
- Operations Management | Programs | Overview | Kellogg School of Management (northwestern.edu)